News and Views

Clean energy solutions for farmers

rural energy tf october 2019

In an Australian first, the CEFC and the National Farmers Federation have collaborated to back ready-made clean energy solutions for Australian farmers, with the twin goals of increasing on-farm efficiency and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

In a practical new guide for Australia’s 85,000 farming enterprises, the CEFC and the NFF have identified 51 opportunities where farmers can reduce their energy bills by improving energy efficiency and switching to renewables.

The investment commitments start at under $10,000, making them cost effective at a time of farm stress and drought.

“Clean energy leads to greater efficiencies and productivity, and an overall lower emissions profile for the agribusiness sector. We believe this guide will help Australian farmers lower their energy bills, reduce their emissions footprint and ultimately, be more productive and competitive.”

The potential energy efficiency technologies range from variable speed drives and smart controls to best-in-class tractors and refrigeration equipment. Renewable energy solutions include increasingly cost-effective solar PV as well as on-farm microgrids, which are particularly relevant in remote areas or where network connections are expensive.

While energy consumption patterns vary across farming enterprises and production systems, the guide finds that there are significant opportunities for farm operations to immediately reduce energy consumption as well as lower energy related emissions.

The challenge for the sector is to understand the available options, the scale of the potential investment and the potential emissions savings.

  • Australian agriculture’s clean energy transformation: How farmers can act:
  • Conduct an energy audit: This is an important first step to understand current energy use and prioritise energy-related investment decisions.
  • Generate your own energy: The farm sector is ideally suited to producing renewable energy and alternative fuels. This includes solar PV, small-scale wind and bioenergy, as well as on-site storage.
  • Upgrade vehicles and machinery: Tractors, ancillary equipment and vehicles can be easily made more energy-efficient, often with relatively little capital expense. This is particularly the case for cropping systems, where upgrades can cut fuel consumption and increase operational efficiency.
  • Improve irrigation and pumping: Energy-efficient irrigation and water management practices have the potential to improve water use through the use of technologies such as variable-speed drives and solar-powered pumping.
  • Consider buildings, and heating and cooling: On-farm building assets, processing technologies, and heating and cooling equipment can be energy-intensive, driving up farm costs.
  • Benefit from precision agriculture: New technologies that calculate the optimal quantity, timing and location of farming inputs such as water and fertiliser can greatly reduce energy use.
  • Consider emerging technologies: Digital solutions such as sensors, robots and autonomous vehicles are already helping farmers generate energy savings.

This article was first published in The Fence magazine.

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